Thursday, November 20, 2008

"King of Kings"

I want to take a moment to welcome a Brand New Blogger to the AfleetAlexForever BlogSpot. His name is Marcus Schmidli and he will be sharing a great deal of his Horse Racing knowledge with us. So without further ado, here is the first edition of the
"Marcus in Seattle" Files.
King of Kings
By Marcus Schmidli
"Curlin has proven himself across two continents with 16 starts, the honor of 2007 Horse of the Year and the greatest North American money-earner in racing history."
-Jess Jackson.
His racing career was over in a flash. Passed by two European horses in the final furlongs of the Breeders Cup Classic. His defeat was a polarizing moment in horse racing. For some, it allowed them to cash in on a big pay day. For a few, it allowed them to fist pump at the notion of "their" Zenyatta becoming horse of the year. And for others, namely me, that defeat was the one of the most painful moments of my young life.
You see, I'm 22. I'm immune to fear. I have very little worries aside from the normal day to day inconveniences. And very rarely, if ever, have I been troubled or saddened deeply by the loss of a loved one. But when I saw that Curlin hadn't managed to hit the board in his final race, I wept. That might be an odd way of dealing with the emotion surrounding the race. I could have rejoiced in Curlin's triumphs of the past, I know. But the past wasn't of any significance to me. Only the future. In the moments after the race, it hit me as it hit many for the first time, that the race I had just witnessed was most certainly Curlin's last. There was no future.
And with that powerful knowledge came the horrific feeling I had rarely felt. I felt as if I had lost a family member. Call it silly. Call it crazy. Call me what you will. I've never had a hard time saying goodbye to a horse, simply, because I've never been attached to one before. That very reason is why I was hit so hard and rocked to the core when I saw how all of this would play out. Underneath all of the speculation that Curlin would return for a 5 year old campaign, I secretly knew all that was too good to be true. Why would someone in this day and age allow an animal to do that? Why risk it? Why not go the way of Street Sense and Hard Spun, two horses who dazzled us and then left the sport as quickly as they entered it? Why even get your hopes up? Those lingering questions are rhetorical in some sense. We all know the answers before we ask, sometimes even if we don't want to hear them. Curlin racing at five was a pipe dream. And to be blunt, so was Curlin racing at four.
And so, in 16 starts, I got to witness 11 thrilling victories, one memorable loss to a filly who was out of this world, and many other races against top competition. Of the new decade, I have a hard time finding better statistics to build a colt's legacy. Tiznow winning back to back Classics is right there. But other than him, who really stood out? I saw Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Barbaro, Big Brown, Funny Cide and many others just as you have. I saw many horses fail in their attempt to becoming a Triple Crown winner. I saw one horse fail to fight off an infection and I saw a few horses who were wildly overrated in some sense. But what I witnessed these last two years with Curlin, was more than memorable. It was a religious experience to some degree. It brought a collective pool of race fans together to cheer for a horse who wasn't running for a Triple Crown but rather, immortality. And isn't that what the sport is about? Legacies. History. Tradition.
After watching Curlin win the Dubai World Cup this last year, I wrote this about the horse:"...No horse ever instilled more confidence in bettors, owners, trainers, fans and his jockey than Curlin. There hasn't been a race where he looks out matched or out classed. There hasn't been a race where he looked annoyed or rattled. I haven't seen him make a mistake in a race aside from maybe going too wide in the final turn at Belmont. All he does is win. And he wins big. Every time he takes the track he reminds me, with his elegance and superiority, that horse racing might still have a very bright future ahead."
I stand by that quote to this day. Curlin might not have won every race. But anyone who got to see him run felt privileged regardless of the outcome. I'm sure in the future, his records will be surpassed and people won't acknowledge what he gave to the sport these last few years. But I'm 22, I'm young and I haven't been witness to Spectacular Bid or Seattle Slew. I don't know Alysheba or Sunday Silence. All I know is what I'm able to see. What I've always been taught by my father was that horse racing is "The Sport of Kings." Maybe each era of racing has it's own king. THIS era belongs to Curlin. Farewell and thank you for the memories.
Long live the King!

6 comments:

Marcus in Seattle said...

Awesome! Groundbreaking! If you don't see a Pulitzer or an Eclipse Award, the world is coming to an end. =)

Jimsjam33 said...

Rarely , if ever , have I ever read an article written with as much passion and reverence for a four legged animal instead of a coke bottled shaped babe . Que sera sera . That being said , the story of your young life and the personal relationship with Curlin that you have attached to your soul and psyche was not only entertaining but informative.
I believe Curlin has earned a space in thoroughbred Hall of Fames around the world and should be included in all virtual reality Championships in the future. In that form Curlins racing career can continue and be profitable for his followers.

Cindy Brooks-Weaver said...

Marcus in Seattle, Thank you for the touching and personal story of your emotional attachment to Curlin. I so enjoy your postings because of your wonderful and youthful insight. I also have been a die hard fan of Curlin and his true sportsman connections. I was blessed to be able to watch him (at the wire at Oaklawn) in the 71st running of the Arkansas Derby. He won so effortlessly and his presence, even at such an early stage of his career, was that of a much older, experienced horse. I was back at Oaklawn for the simulcast of the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby. My family and I made our bets at the track and then returned to our room at the Arlington Hotel to watch the race. Now naturally, I had bragged about Curlin to anyone who would listen for several months leading up to this point. I had put everything I could on Curlin and had him as my top wheel in every bet. I was nervous "as a cat on a hot tin roof" and not because of the bets, but just from the fact that I wanted him to win so badly! My brother, having bet on Street Sense, ribbed me right up until race time. Well, when Curlin finished third, my brother knew I was devastated and in brotherly fashion commented,"I'm sorry Curlin didn't win. I know you really believed in him." My response to him was, "What do you mean believed in him? I still believe he's the greatest animal on four legs, I don't care what happened today. Just wait till the Preakness." Well, we all know the history of that race and I got to serve up a little "crow" for all the naysayers I knew. With the Belmont just around the corner, I was at my most excited. You see, I was convinced from the beginning that Curlin's best race would be the Belmont. I felt (as my father would say) that the Belmont is the kind of race that would separate the sheep from the goat. I'll go to my grave believing that the stretch run, for Curlin, was just him enjoying a game of "cat and mouse" tag. I still think if he had the Belmont stretch duel with a horse, instead of the filly, he would have had his head in the game and would have won by several lengths. In spite of any and all of this, Curlin has remained my pick of the 2007 crop. It doesn't hurt matters any that Mr. Jackson, Robby Albarado, Steve Asmussen, Scott Blasi, and all of Curlin's handlers (including Pancho) are just so damn likeable and fan friendly. I, in agreement with you, find it hard to believe that his retirement has garnered so little attention in the world of sports. Afterall, even for those who aren't fans of his, we should be grateful for all the interest he has generated for the sport we love so much. It is perplexing to me also, that it seems we have divided into two warring factions- Curlin's camp and Big Brown's camp. Why is it that no one seems to be fan of both horses? Of course that is not to say that I am. I think, at best, BB is an over glorified turf horse and his connections have all the grace and warmth of roadkill. I'm not into bashing anyone, I just call them as I see them. I also loved your blog on the NTRA when you said,"Did I sleep through the meeting where we decided BB was back in the running for HOTY?" You were so right, what a joke. How could anyone with an educated opinion actually believe BB is in the same league as Curlin? Time has proven what I suspected all along. BB is an unsound horse with a bad (over reach) stride who happened to debut in one of the weakest crops of three year olds in recent history. Many people may disagree with my assessment, but if I'm wrong why did he tear off the bulb of his foot during a workout? The proof is in the injury. Now he is being lauded as one of the greatest living horses to stand at stud, yet the sad truth is that what he has to pass on to future generations is a history of chronic hoof problems and a mediocre running style at best. Back to the actual topic at hand, I will miss Curlin but look forward to seeing what his legacy will produce in a few years. At least we know his get will be sound and large in heart. I'm also looking forward to more of the "Marcus in Seattle Files", thanks to AfleetAlexForever and his awesome forum. You guys are GREAT!!!!!

Cindy Brooks-Weaver said...

P.S. You've got my vote for the Pulitzer and the Eclipse......enough said.

bellwether said...

PLEASE Cindy...the powers that be (running our COUNTRY & HORSE RACING) @ the moment couldn't promote CHIPPENDALE'S @ a FEMALE PENITENTIARY...sad but very TRUE!!!Long Live Bellwether Productions!!!we can SHOWCASE BOTH!!!WATCH US...

Marcus from Seattle said...

Thanks for the comments guys. A first post like that can make a guy nervous. Glad people liked it. I'm pleased to be working with AAF to bring some insight from a young fan's perspective. I'm just a young guy trying to find his niche. If anyone has questions for me or just wants a quick opinion...feel free to post them here. Thanks again.